The engine was difficult and the project ‘rudderless’ until the end
Mass Effect: Andromeda started development five years ago, but most of the game came together in the final year and a half, according to “almost every” developer speaking to Kotaku anonymously in a lengthy expose on the struggles Andromeda went through to become BioWare’s lowest-rated (on Metacritic) game.
Several sources described those 18 months as the worst period of development crunch they’d ever been a part of. “We’ll put something together, and it’s been bug tested and signed off and approved,” one developer said. We’d say, ‘OK, we can now move on from that to the next thing.’ And while our backs are turned, what we’d just put together falls apart.” Appropriate for a game that was a laughing stock a week before launch.
“It really wasn’t until Mac Walters came on board—and that was very much a reaction to the state of the critical path—he was really brought on board to give it direction and get it into shape,” a developer said. “Before that it was quite rudderless.”
The problems reportedly go back to the beginning. EA’s vaunted Frostbite Engine is apparently no good for RPGs. “When it does something well [like vehicles, for example], it does it extremely well. When it doesn’t do something, it really doesn’t do something,” one developer said. Andromeda need maps larger than Frostbite’s maximum size and both “the save system, and various action-RPG mechanics” were reportedly difficult to implement. “The pain started with Dragon Age: Inquisition and continued on with Andromeda,” a developer said about the engine.
There’s all kinds of stuff going on in the Kotaku piece. Cut features. Significant time spent on procedurally-generated worlds that was all scrapped in 2015. Series producer and longtime BioWare employee Casey Hudson quit in 2014 as part of a greater rotating cast of leadership changes. “At least a dozen” by the end of 2014, and, unsurprisingly, the “animation team in particular was understaffed…and when people left, their positions sometimes weren’t refilled.”